Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Morning all,

Bit over politics today so am randomly and quite self-indulgently listing my top 10 fave TV shows.

10. Melrose Place Aaron Spelling's soap formula has always been simple: If it gets boring, make everybody irredeemably evil and get some hot chicks to start beating up on each other. MP was no exception (although if memory serves, even mortal enemies Alison and Amanda never went beyond the slap). With the mass exodus of the cast around '97 it really should not have continued for 2 more seasons, but everything up until then - the MP bomb, Kimberly abducting Jo's baby, Jane and Sydney burying Richard alive and of course Jake boning Amanda on her corporate desk - was lots of fun.

9. Dynasty Again with Aaron. Like MP, when it was getting boring, he culls the dull characters and brings in a has-been to revive her career. In MP it was Heather Locklear (who was delightful trailer trash Sammi-Jo in this show), in Dynasty it was the High Goddess of Camp, Joan Collins. Apparently the Spellmeister originally wanted Sophia Loren for the role of Blake's vengeful ex-wife Alexis but Sophia turned it down, allegedly claiming she was "too good" for the role. Joan, however, had no such hang-ups, and for a woman who's never won an Oscar, a Tony, a Golden Globe or even a Logie, she singlehandedly saved Dynasty and became its star (much to the fury of John Forsythe) with her hammy histrionics, ridiculously big hair and shoulder pads and choice quips for eternal victim and wife #2, Krystle. The catfight in the lily pond was truly champagne television.

8. Neighbours Snigger all you like, this is the show I've literally grown up with. I can still remember Charlene and Scott exchanging their vows over Angry Anderson's "Suddenly", with Madge, Helen and possibly even Mrs Mangel all dabbing away the tears from their eyes as they witnessed the union that would ultimately settle the feud between the Robinsons and the Ramsays. It's getting quite saucy these days what with bombs, murders, lesbian teenagers, police corruption, teenage party drug addiction etc, but still generally seems to maintain a sense of humour about itself and still include the less dramatic subplots about neighbours waring over a fence or fallen tree, the sort of stuff that makes this show unique.

7. Queer as Folk (Don't worry, non-soaps are coming) I really liked the original English version of this show. It was what they would call "gritty", but really it was just very realistic and a welcome change for homos like myself who wanted a better portrayal of queers on screen that Matt on Melrose Place, whose snogging of Billy's best man they couldn't even show. QAF showed kisses and a lot more - oral, anal, threesomes - so much action that it does at time border on soft core porn. The American show replicated the British for a few episodes then went on its own path, becoming a lot more stylised and fleshing out characters who were otherwise secondary in the pom version. I am consistently impressed with the writing especially, and the very talented (and fairly sexy) cast who make the most of their 3-dimensional characters. When I heard straight people at my work all asking each other if they'd seen QAF last night and speaking about it with enthusiasm usually reserved for Sex and the City, I realised this show was a first in its cross-appeal between men and women, gay and straight, SBS and non SBS regulars.

6. Dr Who Fans of this show - I mean hardcore fans, the convention attenders and the Tom Baker stalkers - are a bit weird. But I guess that makes me weird too, because at the height of my obsession I could actually list in order every one of the 150+ stories that went across 8 doctors. And like true fans everywhere I want to bomb the BBC for all but destroying most of the Patrick Troughton era. Dumb c&*ts. Anyway, I'm very excited about the new series coming with Christopher Eccelston as Doc. Not so excited about ex Britney clone Billie Piper as the companion (although as someone pointed out to me, good acting skills haven't always been synonymous with many of the female companions) or the first story, which sounds like a rip-off of Jon Pertwee's first appearance (the autons making Madame Tussaud's wax figures coming to life and going on a murderous rampage), but as it's written by Russell T Davies, QAF creator, I'm sure it will still be fab.

5. The Simpsons To me this modern masterpiece has passed its peak, but when a prime-time TV show is still being produced and rating well 15 years after it began - not to mention the thousands of repeats on commercial TV and various Simpsons fests on Foxtel - you know there is a magic that will probably never be replicated in any other show. Perhaps the original American post-modern TV sitcom, self-aware like Buffy (see below) and able to make fun of itself as easily as it does of celebrities, subcultures and television, its success is impossible to identify. In fact let's not think too much about it. As Malibu Stacey wisely points out, "Thinking too much gives you wrinkles! Let's bake some cookies for the boys!"

4. The League of Gentlemen Are you local? If not, there's nothing for you here, don't read on and don't touch the things!! This is the only show I've found simultaneously deeply amusing and horrifying. In fact sometimes the characters - multiply played by 3 actors - can be so gruesome and awful that they start becoming grating (Pop springs to mind), but for every Pop there's Pauline the Jobseeker lady, Tubbs and Edward the local shop proprietors, Uncle Harvey the toad breeder and Barbara the pre-op transgender woman/cab driver with nipples like bullets. Actually, the show is pretty queer really. No self-respecting homo TV nerd can afford to live his life without TLOG in it.

3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer There is no logical reason why such an average movie should have spawned such an incredibly high-quality TV show, but I guess Joss Whedon writing both of them would have something to do with it. And re-casting Sarah Michelle Gellar instead of Kirsty Swanson as the eponymous heroine. Like The Simpsons, Buffy is big on the postmodernism and can at times wallow in its own cleverness (like in the final season), but like TLOG, this show is funny as it is scary. The season 4 finale - Buffy, Xander, Willow and Giles visited by the first slayer in their dreams - still rates as my favourite, and the episode with the gentlemen callers - where all the characters are mute - is probably the scariest thing I've seen in a television show. Other than Daryl Somers' Hey Hey woollen knits.

2. Kath and Kim Now I got one word to say to you...I don't want to show off - oh bugger it, yes I do - but I knew Kath and Kim before they were famous. I mean, not personally or anything, but I knew about and was saying "lork at moiye" years before the show first appeared on the ABC. That's because I remember the characters fondly from the short-lived Fast Forward spin-off, Big Girl's Blouse. In fact, Kath herself even appears very briefly in FF in a one-off sketch. This is the show that introduced us to the new suburban nightmares: they want to be effluent, dress tizzy and live in giant townhouses, preferably in a cool-dee-sack. Whenever I wonder where on earth are all these people who are voting for John Howard, I watch Kath and Kim (particularly the episode where Kel actually admits doing this) and remind myself: they're all shopping at Fountain Gate and smoking Alpine Lights. Noice.

1. Prisoner He used to give me roses...Prisoner is everything I'm looking for in a television show: camp, saucy soap opera, excellent writing, characters you love to hate, humour, queer action...And it's Australian. In fact it was the first truly successful Australian TV export, so successful that at its peak it was outrating Charlie's Angels on prime-time US television. I have this idea of a Prisoner: 20 Years Later show involving Chrissie Latham's grown-up daughter as top dog. I guess all I need to do is sleep with a few more programming execs and hopefully we'll see it soon. Perhaps Nicki Webster could be cast as an inmate, preferably one who gets killed quite early on, locked in a dryer or sodomised with a baton or some such. OK, I'm getting off-track. There is a reason why this show has such high cult status and why repeat viewings are drawing in new generations of fans (like me). Again, I don't know what it is. You watch Prisoner and you either love it right away or you don't. And if you don't, that's OK. God will judge you for this lifestyle choice, not me.


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